Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Does The Pay Justify The Toil?

“Leave something for someone but don’t leave someone for something.” – Enid Blyton

Are you always doing exit interviews with staff? Do you know for sure why people are leaving your firm?

There are times when someone gives notice, you and their peers are all thinking, “Thank goodness!” That should never be the case! Deal with poor performers directly and don’t just hope and pray that they will quit.

During these times of a severe talent shortage, you might find out why in an article via Accounting Today titled, 5 Reasons Staff Are Leaving Your Firm, The author, Chase Birky notes:

The leading voices in our profession consistently cite a pipeline issue — the number of accounting graduates and CPA candidates coming through the system is not high enough to meet demand — exacerbated by the strain brought about by COVID-19. However, this explanation is superficial; it only accounts for the symptoms and not the underlying illness.”

Overwork has been a problem for years but we always downplay it saying to staff that it is only a few months each year when the workload is heavy. In days gone by, that might have been the case. I rarely talk to a firm that is not very busy all year long now.

So, the staff is feeling overworked and stressed. Per Birky, “People are fed up with being treated like a machine in an assembly line. The pay no longer justifies the toil.”

The Five Reasons are – 1) Toxic leadership, 2) Unrealistic workload, 3) Compensation plan is lacking, 4) Confusion about advancement, and 5) No self-determination.

Read more about each of the Five Reasons here.

  • People fear leaving their safe harbor of the known and venturing off into the unknown. Human beings crave certainty - even when it limits them.
  • Robin S. Sharma

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

Cover Letters

“A well-written cover letter can be the difference between winning or losing a job opportunity.” – Larry Sheftel, Aprio

It is always great to be featured in The Journal of Accountancy. Thank you to Teri Saylor for contacting me to discuss the power, lack of power, and use of cover letters for resumes.

Do you expect a cover letter when someone submits a resume? Do you even care? Some beneficial information can be obtained from someone who writes an exceptional cover letter if the hiring manager at your firm actually reads it.

I believe that cover letters have almost become a thing of the past. Everyone seems to be in a hurry these days and do not think of including a cover letter. Those doing the hiring are also in a hurry too and don’t even read a cover letter if it is included.

I asked one of my clients if they always expect a cover letter with a resume. He said yes because they ask in the ad, “submit your resume and cover letter to…. ” They don’t care about the cover letter but they just want to see how many people follow instructions!

I hope you take the time to read the article. It was also nice to be featured along with my friend, Larry Sheftel of Aprio (pictured).

  • In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you.
  • Warren Buffett

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

Dementors

“You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful.” – J. K. Rowling

I am assuming you are familiar with Harry Potter. I read all the books and watched all the movies. J. K. Rowling created a fascinating world. Let’s take a somewhat light-hearted look at how Dementors might apply inside your firm.

When you read the following meaning of Dementors, I wonder what it brings to mind.

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. … If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil.

I know I am weird, but it brings to my mind, some managers in CPA firms who seem to “suck the life out of people.” Thankfully, it doesn’t apply to all managers.

Some Managers are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the accounting firms that are stuck in the past and glory in the status quo. They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. If they can, the Manager will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like themselves – uncaring and demanding.

J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope.”

I have said all of that to remind you that, as firm owners, you must invest in the non-technical training and education of your managers. Managers need to be people developers. In some firms, they are simply highly-trained technicians charged with getting the most work out of subordinates. They don’t know how to build strong relationships and engage with the people they supervise.

I’ve been working in public accounting for decades. I have heard many stories about inadequate managers. And yes, they have been described as “sucking the life out of people.” I have also heard the same about some partners.

  • We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
  • J. K. Rowling

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

Starting Salaries

“When it comes to landing a good job, many people focus on the role. Although finding the right title, position, and salary is important, there’s another consideration that matters just as much: culture.” – Adam Grant

In my local newspaper today, I read a brief article that should make you think about raising starting salaries and not forgetting about the other perks.

An excerpt:

“Hardly a day goes by without a big bank announcing a significant rise in starting salaries for its youngest employees. JPMorgan Chase Citigroup, UBS, and Morgan Stanley are now paying first-year bankers $100,000, while Evercore, Jefferies, and Goldman Sachs will pay $110,000. In most cases, first-year salaries were $85,000-$95,000.”

I have observed that many accounting firms have not significantly increased their starting salaries over the last ten years! Of course, it depends on the size of your firm and on your location. But, boundaryless recruiting is changing all of that. Big firms are “raiding” the midwest and offering big city salaries without the person living in a big city.

What are you going to do about starting salaries? The old dilemma then arises. You have three-year staff making less than beginning staff. Other perks are also very important.

Here’s a link to the NYT article. Your partner group needs to discuss and identify how to address this challenge.

  • If you want to be a generous giver, you have to watch out for selfish takers.
  • Adam Grant

Monday, August 9th, 2021

More About “The Great Resignation”

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” — Ayn Rand

You have heard it talked about and read about it recently. I wrote about it in June. It’s the situation where jobs are plentiful and people are disenchanted with where they work now and where their career and life are headed.

Maybe in the CPA profession, we should call it the “mild disenchantment”. Accountants, in my observation, are not one to job hop (as we used to call it). When the millennials hit the scene, “job hopping” became normal so we no longer discarded resumes that documented several prior employers.

However, your people have numerous opportunities to accept a lucrative offer.

Today, I want you to read Dan Hood’s article about “The Great Resignation.” He offers some great advice and addresses the issue in a way that only Dan Hood can.

  • Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.
  • William Throsby Bridges

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

The Childcare Hurdle

“Working from home doesn’t solve the childcare problem.” – Suzanne Lucas

Want to differentiate your firm and be able to attract career-minded CPAs? Consider offering some sort of childcare benefit.

While we often believe that receiving substantial unemployment benefits is the reason people quit working, many are saying the real factor is the high cost, or even the existence, of childcare.

In a recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@realevilhrlady), she makes the case for employers to help employees with this high-cost, career hampering burden. The title of the article: The Number 1 Reason the Unemployed Turn Down Jobs. Here’s an excerpt:

Childcare work pays a ridiculously low wage–on average, $11 an hour. If these workers are part of the 1.8 million who turn down jobs because unemployment offers more, then higher wage earners can’t turn to work either. If schools don’t open reliably and daycare centers can’t hire enough people, not everyone can return to work.

It is a complicated issue. Read the article to learn more and then consider how your firm can subsidize childcare in some fashion.

The childcare issue is nothing new in the CPA profession. Young CPAs just beginning their families have faced this same issue for years and it usually falls on the female’s shoulders. She puts her career on hold to be able to stay at home with her children. It becomes an interrupted career path for many.

  • Even if unemployment insurance ends, why would you take a child care job for $11 an hour when you can walk across the street and get a job in retail or restaurants for $15?
  • Suzanne Lucas

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

What Your Team Expects

“Trust me is easy to say, especially when you mean it, but hard to hear.” – Seth Godin

As a result of all the changes firms have faced in the last sixteen to eighteen months, progressive firms are updating their employee handbooks. Many new and changing guidelines need to be explained and documented so that your team members know what is expected as a member of your firm’s team.

Even in your old handbook, is it possible that what you are saying contradicts what they are seeing?

Again, I am talking about setting a good example. I have learned through experience, that the partners are the ones who do not follow the documented processes and procedures that are clearly spelled out in the handbook.

People are now expecting many things to be different but they’ve been taught through experience not to believe that things are actually going to be different.

A quote from Seth Godin: “If you’ve read ten employee handbooks that say one thing when the company does another, you’re likely to not believe the eleventh one.”

Be sure to read Godin’s blog post about this topic. It is titled, Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • Showing tends to beat telling.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Keeping It Simple

“How difficult it is to be simple.” – Vincent Van Gogh

CPA leaders working in public accounting have a bothersome skill. I have observed on many occasions that they have the ability to complicated almost anything. Maybe it is their inquisitive nature. Rather than just try something, test something to see if it works, they research, investigate, question an idea over and over and usually end up NOT trying something new.

They have high expectations for the team members but don’t often clearly (and simply) communicate them.

Here is some simple advice intended for a high school marching band as they depart on a road trip. I hope you can see how it could be used to communicate with your own team members. It also applies to your partner group.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

Engage Your Employees – Don’t Lose Them

“You give loyalty, you’ll get it back. You give love, you’ll get it back.” – Tommy Lasorda

Now, more than ever, it is so important to engage your team members. As you all know, finding, hiring, and retaining people has become even more of a concern for public accounting firms.

Some firms are holding their partners accountable for engaging and retaining valued team members. Firm management is asking each partner these three questions. Leaders need followers. Many people working in public accounting say they stay with the firm because they are loyal to a particular partner. Who are those partners at your firm and why do they deserve such loyalty?

  • A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.
  • Robert Benchley

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Your Current Challenge Certainly Isn’t New

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I’m not sure where I got the quote, below, and I don’t know if it is really true. However, it seems to me that what this person said was probably true at the time.

Finding, hiring and retaining talent professionals is at the very top of the list today. The AICPA is concerned, state societies are concerned, practitioners are concerned and HR managers are exhausted.

Here’s the quote from 1961. It kind of puts things in perspective. The current talent challenge is nothing new and CPAs have been trying to solve it for 60 years!

“The public accounting profession can, in the years just ahead, expand its role in our economy to levels never before reached… The problems of the profession in meeting the demands of the future are centered in its ability to attract and keep within its ranks qualified professional personnel.”
 —John Jones, Georgia Society Magazine – 1961

  • If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.
  • Abraham Maslow